Forsyth's Music Shop

Explore Manchester’s oldest independent retailer

By Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Read - Listen

Forsyth's Music Shop (21st Century) by Dan EdenGreater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Meet the owners

Simon Loat and his sister Emma, who are part of the original Forsyth’s founding family, answer questions from their historic music shop in the heart of Manchester. 

Forsyth's Music Shop (21st Century) by Dan EdenGreater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Slide 1 - Forsyth
00:00

How was Forsyth founded?

Simon: It started in 1857, five generations ago, by two brothers, James and Henry Forsyth. They were originally in the piano business and so they used to develop pianos and send them to Beethoven for him to test and to other renowned musicians around Europe when they worked at Broadwood’s piano makers down in London.

Forsyth's Music Shop (21st Century) by Dan EdenGreater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Slide 2 - Forsyth
00:00

There they got to know Charles Hallé, who in Manchester is famous for starting the Hallé Orchestra. They became good friends with Charles Hallé, so when he was invited to permanently make the amateur gentlemen’s orchestra a professional orchestra, he persuaded the Forsyth brothers to come up to Manchester and help run the business side of the orchestra, whilst he did the musical, creative side of it. At the same time, he said “why don’t you open a piano shop?” It was Victorian England, and everyone could do anything, so that's what they did. 

Forsyth's Music Shop (21st Century) by Dan EdenGreater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Slide 3 - Forsyth
00:00

How did the business develop?

Emma: They started off with a warehouse selling pianos and managing the orchestra but Charles Hallé had other ambitions. He wrote his own music, so he said to the Forsyth brothers “Why don’t you publish some of my music too?” So, we started publishing music as well. It’s not a major part of our business nowadays but there were people like Walter Carroll, one of the very well-known piano composers (he was very Manchester and was the music advisor back in the 1920s) and we published his whole catalogue. When you run a music shop, people ask you for other things and I guess we gradually started selling other stuff as well.

Slide 4 - Fosryth
00:00

We started on Deansgate a few doors down on the corner of St Ann Street and moved to these premises in the 1880s. We’ve been around 163 years now, mostly in this building, and the building has evolved with us. We’re on five stories altogether with our piano workshops on the top floor and lots of other stuff. 

Forsyth's Music Shop (21st Century) by Dan EdenGreater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Slide 5
00:00

What makes your business unique?

Emma: As well as having a fantastic stock, the most important thing is the people who work here, who are passionate about the music and genuinely want to help people find the right instrument. The depth of knowledge of our staff is incredible. We hope everyone feels very welcome. It's quite intense coming to such a specialist place, but the point is we’re here to help people on their journey and help them find the right thing. 

Forsyth's Music Shop (21st Century) by Dan EdenGreater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Slide 6
00:00

How did you come into the business?

Simon: When you grow up with a family business you don’t know any other way of life really. Whenever we went on holiday it was to visit piano shops. There was always a work ulterior motive. You grow up with it. I went to university and studied Mechanical Engineering, always with the intention of eventually being involved with the business, but I wanted to try something else first. But even my final year project for my Engineering degree was to do with why piano strings break. My parents finally enticed me into working here by saying “Oh, we’re getting a new computer system installed, do you think you could help us?” and the rest is history. 

Forsyth's Music Shop (21st Century) by Dan EdenGreater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Slide 8 Forsyth
00:00

Emma: I’m the newbie. I started in 2002. I did Geography at university and worked for an environmental charity campaigning for the National Parks. I was there for five years and was very happy, but when you work in the charity sector there are not many opportunities for progression and Mum and Dad said “Well, now might be a good time to think about trying the business” and I’m still trying the business 18 years later! It’s a lovely place to work. There’s about 35 of us altogether but it genuinely is a family business. Everyone who works here feels part of a bigger family.

Forsyth's Music Shop (21st Century) by Dan EdenGreater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Slide 9
00:00

How does your location play into your business?

Simon: Chetham’s School of Music is a walk down Deansgate from us. We help them with their piano summer school every year. We loan them a lot of pianos to help them facilitate that. We loan them something like 20 to 30 pianos. We don’t feel musically isolated in the city centre, Manchester’s a very musical city and we’re a sort of mini-musical world in the city centre with Chetham’s and the Royal Northern College of Music. When there is a concert at St Ann’s Church or the Cathedral, we lend them a piano, so we feel very embedded in the musical culture of Manchester.

Slide 10
00:00

Simon: Manchester city centre has evolved. If you think back 20, 25 years ago nobody lived in the city centre. When the bomb went off the only people who lived in the city centre were the caretakers for the big buildings. It’s completely different now. There’s thousands and thousands of apartments everywhere and thousands more in construction and so there is a living community in the city centre. It’s not just a commuter city anymore. And that's why teaching is much more relevant than it used to be because of the people who live in the city centre now who would like to learn instruments and need somewhere to learn. 

Watch the video to learn more about the famous Forsyth history. 

Forsyth's Music Shop (21st Century) by Dan EdenGreater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

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